The Cost of Building a Web Application
Before moving to the cost of building a web application, you should know what a web application is and what are the things you can do with a web application. Only then you will be able to decide what are the things your web application has to do. So let us start this post with the most basic question of what is a web application.
In simple words, a web application is a computer program that performs tasks over the internet by utilizing web browsers and web technology. For the growth of a business organization, there has to be an exchange of information with their target market. Also, there have to be fast and secure transactions. The business has to capture and store all the necessary data. They should have a means of processing this information and presenting the results to the user. All these are possible if you have a web application. They use a combination of server-side scripts to handle the storage and retrieval of the information. To present information to the users, they use client-side scripts. Web applications help users to interact with the company using online forms, content management systems, shopping carts etc. They also allow employees allow employees to create documents, share information, collaborate on projects, and work on common documents regardless of location or device. They are quite different from basic website pages where everything is pre-formatted.
Search Engine Optimization is something that every website owner focuses on today. Every website owners know that just having a website will not do anything good for them. So they want to have their websites in the top rankings of Google. Google has made it clear now that to get higher rankings in the Google search results, the website has to be responsive. That means your website should help users to navigate through it regardless of the operating system they are using. Thus a web application has become an essential factor in SEO.
Now let’s see what are the positives these web applications are giving:
- Mostly web apps are developed with programming languages such as HTML and CSS. Both these web languages are well known by the IT professionals. So there won’t be any difficulty for them to develop them or to make any changes in them. You don’t need a decade to learn how to develop a web application.
- Web apps are different from native apps. A single web app can reach out to many devices. They are programmed to run on any operating system. It can easily adapt to iOS, Android, Windows phone etc. So even if you change your device or operating system, you can use them in the same way you were using them before.
- Web apps run on the device’s own web browser through a simple URL. You don’t have to worry about the complex codings that the apps use. You can just go to the web browser and use the app in a very simple way.
- You don’t have to download and install them from app stores like Google Play or Apple’s App Store. Having a direct link through a web app is free and so you can save money.
- Web apps can also be open websites. These apps do not need to be updated like other apps. The website to which the application is linked is to be updated.
- Web app development is the cheaper kind of app development. You just have to create a link or several links between the application and an URL. A native app or an integrated app will require more money for development and also their chances for success is also less.
- The time required for a web app development is also less. This makes it cheaper.
These are just common advantages of a web application. Now let us see the advantages of a web application in the business point of view.
- Cost-effective Development
Web-applications development helps users to access the system via a web browser, which is a uniform environment. Even though the user interaction with the application has to be tested on different web browsers, the application needs to be developed only for a single operating system. You don’t have to develop and test it on different operating system versions and configurations. So the development and troubleshooting are very much easy. For those web applications that use a Flash front end, testing and troubleshooting are a lot more easier.
- Accessible anywhere
Web systems are quite different from traditional applications. You can access them anytime anywhere using any PC with an Internet connection. So the user can firmly take in charge of where and when they access the application. You can also open up exciting, modern possibilities such as global teams, home working and real-time collaboration using web systems. You don’t have to sit in front of a single computer and work in a fixed location anymore if you start using web applications.
- Easily Customisable
Web-based applications come with a user-interface that is easier to customize than with the case with desktop applications. So you can easily update the look and feel of the application or to customize the presentation of information to different user groups. You don’t have to settle for the same interface at all times. You can find the perfect look for each situation and user and use it.
- Accessible for a range of devices
Web applications are not only customizable for user groups but also customizable to use on any device connected to the internet like PDAs, mobile phones, and tablets. The user will be able to receive and interact with information in a way that suits them. Thus people will get the up-to-date information at their fingertips.
- Improved interoperability
You will get a good level of interoperability between web applications than it is with isolated desktop systems. Thus web-based architecture makes it possible to rapidly integrate enterprise systems. This will improve work-flow and other business processes. You can take the advantage of internet technologies to get a flexible and adaptable business model that can be changed according to shifting market demands.
- Easier installation and maintenance
Installation and maintenance using the web-based approach are less complicated. When a new version or an upgrade is installed on the host server, every user can access it straight away. There is no need to upgrade the PC of each and every potential user. If users have up-to-date browsers and plugins, they can easily accomplish rolling out of new software. The upgrades will be performed by an experienced professional to a single server. So the results are also more predictable and reliable.
- Adaptable to increased workload
Web-based application also makes increasing processor capacity simpler. You will only need to upgrade the server hardware if an application requires more power to perform tasks. You can cluster or run the software on several servers simultaneously to increase the capacity of web-based simultaneously. You can easily add new servers to the system with the increase in workload.
- Increased Security
Web applications are typically deployed on dedicated servers. These are monitored and maintained by experienced server administrators while desktop applications will have to monitor hundreds or even thousands of client computers. So web-based applications provide a more effective way. Thus security also will be tighter than the desktop applications.
- Flexible core technologies
You can use any of the three core technologies for building web-based applications. You can select from them depending on the requirements of your application. If you need Java-based solutions, then technologies will be JSP and Servlets. The second case is the newer Microsoft .NET platform that uses Active Server Pages, SQL Server and .NET scripting languages. The final option is the Open Source Platform which will be the best for smaller websites and lower budget applications.
Now as you have a good knowledge of web applications and their different uses, let us come to our real topic- the cost of building a web application. The question in every mind while deciding to build a web application will be what is the total cost? Those asking me this question, always want around figure as the answer. But I always make it clear that you cannot say the answer in an exact figure, it depends. There are a number of factors that affect this.
You cannot grow in an IT field without web applications today. If you want your business to developer faster and achieve the goals, you must surely have a web application. Web applications will help you target many clients as well as customers, So they are very much essential to meet your different business needs. There are many reasons as to why web applications are this important. Let’s check them one by one.
- To market your business and build a plan
Without a proper web application, you cannot bring a growth to your business in the market share. To bring a growth to your business, you need to reach the customers and make them know about your organization, its product/services. Web applications play a very important role in branding. You can maintain a good communication with the potential customers with these web applications. Thus you get more opportunities to sell your products/brands. You can even take the help of e-commerce developers to bring a new way to gain sales.
- Customer Support
You get an enhanced customer support through web applications. They can become a good medium to establish contact between potential customers and organizations. These applications can be accessed anytime, which is one of the impressive parts of them. You don’t have to worry about the location anymore. You can have a contact with your customers wherever they are.
Business is becoming highly competitive these days. So to move on to the current scenario, it is highly essential to have your own web application. They are a very important tool to attract customers.
As cited earlier, there are many factors that affect the cost of building a web application. If you look at the basics of developing a web application, you can find that the cost is calculated by the number of work hours put into it multiplied by the hourly rate your web development team charges. The more complex the work is, the more works hours have to be put in. The work will have become complex with the number of features you want in your web application and how it should look like. So the major three factors that affect the cost of a web application are:
If you would like to know the most simple application, it will be a website where one person manages the content and no online transactions or payments take place. An informational site with the details of a company and its services can be a good example of this. A complex web application will have features like options for users to register and add their own content, selling online, allowing others to buy and sell on your website, integrating your app with other apps, localizing your website for multiple geographic locations etc. Thus the cost will keep on increasing the complexity of features you want on your website. When you increase the custom features, the complexity increases and so does the price. Here are some common complex features that are incorporated in most of the popular websites:
- EE-commerce features – Payment, Payout/Withdrawal, Online bidding etc.
- Social Networking features – Interaction between registered users, Scoring system etc.
- Management and Operational tools – Admin Panel, Multiple user roles with various access levels, Dashboard, Statistics and Analytics etc.
- Hourly Rates
There is very much diversity in the global market of web development services. So it is very hard to navigate. Web developers are priced according to their business types and the price varies according to each vendor type. Enterprise vendors will have 500 – 2000 employees and they work with budgets starting from six figures. The development period starts at 6 months. The rising stars or Upstart shops will be new in the business and can be quite professional. Also, there will be bottom feeders which are low – quality companies and freelancers. The hourly rate will be distributed among the different experts who work to develop your application like Project Managers, Developers, Quality Assurance Engineer etc.
Most people think that if more people are included in the development team, the faster will be the development process of your web application. This is completely wrong. Most of the development processes have to be done in a strict order. So you cannot do different tasks simultaneously. Even if you need the app in a short time, don’t hurry because to you will end up wasting your money on something useless.
- Post-Release Expenses
Bug-fixing and Infrastructure are the two main factors that come in post-release expenses. Post-release bugs can happen anytime, even if your website was developed by an expert developer. When testing, you will be with your client and using devices and formats that your clients find as a possibility. But after release, the app will be used by a number of people under a number of circumstances with a number of devices. So you will have to develop a testing plan according to these situations.
So it necessary to keep a part of your budget for the future bugs that can arise any time after the launch of the application. It may require 10 – 25% of the total budget for development. When talking about the Infrastructure, the cost will be for Domain name registration and Hosting web app. The Domain name registration will cost something from $5 to $50 while Hosting web app will range from $4 to $500. This will depend on the storage space and features.
Different phases of web application development
Web application development is not a quick process. It has 4 phases. Let us look what are they:
- Visualizing the Project
In this phase, the management and the developers who are assigned to work with the project, come together and establish the goals that the project has to achieve. This will also include finding the limitations of the project, scheduling, and giving a version name for the application. After this phase, both the management as well as developers will have clear idea and documentation of what are the goals the project has to achieve.
- Designing the Plan
In the first phase, you have identified the goals the app has to achieve. Now you have to decide how to achieve these goals. You have to decide things like which script language to use, what are the features needed, what should be the time limit etc. You should have a clear answer to all these questions. Project plan and functional specifications are the vital parts of this phase. While the project plan determines a timeframe of events and tasks, the functional specifications give you a detailed report of the application’s function and flow.
After the second phase of designing the plan, you will have a baseline to start with the development work. The developers can now begin coding, testing, and publishing of data. In this phase, the data variables, entities, and coding procedures that will be used throughout the remainder of the project will be established. The development team will then prepare a milestone document. This is then handed to the management for review.
- Testing, Support and Stability
In this phase, the main focus is on the testing, removal of bugs, discrepancies and network issues that will affect the application. This phase also establishes different policies and procedures that will serve as a good support system.
As mentioned earlier, the costs for developing a web application depends on the complexity of the applications. So we can divide web applications as basic, medium complexity and complex. The basic web application will have pages with static information and will cost something around $3K. A web application with medium complexity will also have pages with static information. It will also have few functional units and API , third-party integration. The cost of such web applications starts from $10K. A complex web application will comprise everything from the medium complexity apps. Along with it, there will be multiple user roles, high user load and custom statistics. The cost of the complex web application will cost something around $25K.
There are developers who divide web application into some other categories. We can look at them too:
- Basic Web Apps – This is similar to the one that we have discussed above. They will be simple online sites that give online brochures with templated layouts. They will have landing pages with a few interactive elements. These type of web apps are mostly suited for small shops. It will cost $5k – $15k for 1 month.
- Professional Web Apps – These are interactive websites with more pages and contents, mostly ecommerce websites. In professional websites, there is a chance for you to many new features to the existing website. They can be perfect prototypes for bigger future projects. Professional web apps are mostly used by small businesses and self-funded founders. It will cost $15k – $60K for about 2-3 months.
- Established Companies – These are websites of big companies with a custom CMS. Big companies here means those e-commerce websites that are intended to bring in up to $10 million revenue. It can also be web apps that are intended to automate processes in a department with up to 200 employees. Such web apps are usually used by mid-sized companies, branch of a large corporation or startups with external investments. The cost of these web apps can be $60k – $200K for 3-6 months.
- Web Apps for Enterprises – These are software add-ons or complete websites for corporations. They are used by fast growing mid-sized companies or well-funded startups. It will cost $200k – $500K for more than 6 months.
If you need very special, unique and big web app very different from others, you should be ready to pay a very big amount. You will have to invest an unlimited amount of money starting from $500K and more.The most common price the companies fall in is $75k – $250K.
Approaches to Cost Estimates
People always want to know about an estimate of the approximate cost of building a web application. There two different methodologies to find the estimated cost of a specific web application. You can use any of them to find an approximate cost. The first one is based on the functional specification. This is created after detailed discussions with the client. For those wondering what a functional specification is, it is a document that describes the goals of the application in detail. This method is a waterfall approach to development. This method will allow you to calculate time and budget more accurately. The problem with this method is that it does not involve changes that will take place throughout the project.
A three-point estimation technique is used when the estimation has to be more probable. This technique suggests the initial production of three figures for every distribution that is required. This can be based on the previous experiences or can be even good guesses.
Now comes the second approach. It will be based on the user stories where the client will tell what the final user of the application should receive from the project. In this method, the terms and budget will be more flexible.
Comparing both the methods will be of no use because you cannot find one method better than the other or one more correct than the other. You can consider the first method suitable for the customers with a fixed budget and time-frame. It is also good for those who want exact features to be developed for their application. For those who want certain final results and are ready to be flexible with their time and budgeting, the second method will be the best. In this case, the process of development lasts until the results are obtained. The team of developers will be paid for a set amounts of time like a week or a month. You can even incorporate both the methods into a hybrid method to cost calculations.
You may be thinking that coding a web application and building a successful web application is the same. But this is not the case. You can invest some time and money and create a web application. But this will not be the amount you would need to make the application a success. You will have to spend more amount on it to make it a successful one. Mostly, the first version of your application will not be a success, but it can become successful with the newer versions. So you can calculate an average app development budget solely by calculating the money you spend on the development process. For this, you will have to take into account the money you spend on the growth of the app. The app will need updates, customer support, backend servers maintenance, cloud hosting, and even legal support. All these will ask you to invest money. As cited earlier, app marketing and promotion that make a huge impact on the product’s success. If you want to have a long-term success for your product, you have to think about the marketing and promotion part in the beginning itself along with the development process.
Developing a Custom Software
Custom Software development is quite different from the typical one. Custom software will be entirely different from others or can be better called unique. They will be unique in their ideas and business logic. A custom application will bring the functionalities you would want in your application. You will be the boss and you can decide what to include and what not. The cost of such custom application will be also different from the others. More the number of custom features, the more you will have to pay. So if you are planning to do a custom web application, you will have to plan your budget first. Create your web application within your budget. If you don’t plan your budget and go for custom applications, the developer will give you a web application that will be so much above your budget, which will become a waste of time and effort.
Building a successful web application is a long-term goal. So you have to choose the right web developers for this job. People often run behind cheaper offers. If so, you are doing a great mistake. First of all, you have to understand that you are not doing a custom by building a web application. You are building something that will play a vital role in the growth and development of your business. So be very keen on finding out the development team that will suit you. You can plan your budget and move forward, but cheap offers will do you more harm than good. Also, do not fall in the offers that promise you a web application within 2 weeks. Sometimes it takes time to build an application that will suit you the best. While choosing a web-application development company, make sure to with a good reputation, a number of successful projects, good references. Before everything, you should have a deep understanding of what you need. You should consider the future of these apps. So your development team should not be just a hired one, make sure that they work with you like partners. Only good cooperation and teamwork will bring you a successful web application. Have a prior discussion with the web development company or web developers you hire before starting the project. Meetings and discussions should take place quite often in between the web application development process. This will help you to have a good understanding on the path of your web application as well as your team can customize the application according to your preferences.